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Is Discipleship Being Bankrupted?

Bankruptcy: băngk′rəpt-sē, noun; The inability to support incurred obligations, resulting in insolvency, liquidation, or reorganization.

When an organization takes on more obligations than it can support, bankruptcy is a common result. To say it another way, bankruptcy is  “biting off more than you can chew”.

Christian leaders often bite off more than they can chew in discipleship. What does that mean? The role of disciple-maker is the job of each individual believer, not the staff, nor the gathered weekly body of Christ. In trying to be the disciple-maker of Christianity, churches take on what is intended by Christ to be the role for individuals-you and me. There are not enough pastors, teachers and leaders to do the discipling we are called by Christ to do. Think of it this way: if you add up all the teachers, pastors, staff, small group leaders, missionaries and ministers in your local Christian community, how many people are there? Then think about how many people in total there are in your gatherings. I’ll bet the ratio is between twenty to one, maybe toward hundreds to one. Christ had twelve, and he was very close aboard with three men and two women. Do you think your own leaders can best that example? Oddly, most churches take that gamble, and it usually means discipleship bankrupts.

Os Guinness speaks about society and its deep influence on disciples today: “Modernity is a monumental paradox to the everyday practice of faith: Modernity … makes discipleship harder, because practicing the lordship of Christ runs counter to the fragmentation and specialization of modern life.” And “The two main examples today are the megachurch leaders marrying the managerial, as we shall see, and the Christian publishers romancing the therapeutic.” Dining with the Devil, Hourglass Books, p 154.

Modern disciples often bankrupt the system too, expecting more of their leaders and churches than the systems are designed to bear. Fewer disciples serving more spectators, serving more underdiscipled consumers. And the problem amplifies as the underdiscipled demand ever more, producing ever fewer real followers of Christ, and producing more brittle believers. We talk about converting people, getting them saved, and then we abandon them to figure Christianity out for themselves. Sure, some catch a sermon or two every month, but daily life? You’re on your own. The result is believers going mute, going inert, and going away. The phenomenon of disciples walking away from their faith is not new.  But it’s different today. The so-called X-M Gen-X and Millennials are now known as the “Nones” (not a member of a Christian community) & “Dones” (departed from their faith). They are not coming back to churches and faith as earlier generations have done. By withdrawing our responsibilities as disciples, and expecting our leaders to carry the load, we are emptying out our discipleship, and that’s spiritual bankruptcy. It’s time for us to face that dilemma.

NEW: FrontStage/BackStage – Changing the discipleship culture on your church
Jason Daye talks with Dennis about the reason we need to rethink and reform the culture of discipling in most churches – and the challenges in doing just that!

© 2023 Dennis Allen | Morgan James Publishing

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